Raleigh, N.C. — Drivers who pass a stopped school bus could lose their license and pay a fine in addition to being charged with a crime, under a proposal that the House approved unanimously Tuesday.
House Bill 428 would tack a $500 fine onto the misdemeanor charge for passing a school bus that has its stop-arm out and its red lights flashing. A driver who hits anyone while passing a stopped school bus would face a $2,500 fine as well as a felony charge, and the fine would increase to $5,000 if the person dies after being hit.
Also, the Division of Motor Vehicles could revoke for one year the license of any driver convicted of two misdemeanors under the legislation within a three-year period. A third misdemeanor could result in a permanent loss of driving privileges.
Drivers convicted of a felony under the proposal would lose their licenses for two or three years, and a second felony offense would lead to a permanent revocation.
Research by North Carolina State University has shown that 576,000 vehicles pass stopped school buses in North Carolina each year, said sponsor Rep. Edward Hanes, D-Forsyth.
Co-sponsor Rep. Danny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, said five children were killed last year after being hit by a car or truck while trying to board or get off a school bus.
"We must do everything we can to put an end to this sort of driver negligence," Hanes said.
Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, applauded the bill, saying drivers would "fly by" his stopped school bus when he drove one in college. He said he would angle the bus when he pulled to a stop so other drivers could see there were children on it.
"I feared that my kids would get hurt," Brandon said. "People run past that (stop-arm) like it's nothing."
The bus safety bill was among dozens the House considered during a marathon session Tuesday as the General Assembly approaches Thursday's crossover deadline. Aside from spending bills, all legislation must clear either the House or Senate by Thursday in order to continue to be considered this year.
Other measures getting House approval Tuesday include the following:
- A proposed constitutional amendment repealing a literacy test for voting.
- A bill that would curb local programs that increase inspections of low-income housing in problem areas.
- A bill that would penalize people for selling or driving vehicles that don't have two working brake lights.
- A bill that would eliminate additional license revocation penalties for people convicted of driving with a revoked license.